Interview: NYS Music Talks JAZZ IS PHSH with Founder Adam Chase

NYS Music sat down with Adam Chase, one of the founding members of JAZZ IS PHSH, to talk about two musical projects he’s currently involved with. Both JAZZ IS PHSH and The James Brown Dance Party were launched last year, and were well branded. They quickly gained notoriety due to the musicians involved in both projects. The James Brown Dance Party, however, tends to book more selective performances, such as the upcoming New Year’s Eve show at the Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan.

Both bands were formed by the Chase brothers, Adam and Matthew, and feature musicians from everywhere.  The beautiful thing about both projects is that a constant variety of musicians can take the show in a completely different direction than previous performances. For the James Brown project, they try to do big and fun special performances, with some smaller runs of shows here and there. This year, the thought came up to reunite with the Giant Country Horns. It had been thirty years since they played together with Phish. Chase went on to say, “when we reached out to them, and proposed the idea of reuniting, they all got so excited. We have Clyde Stubblefield playing, who was James Brown’s original drummer. He’s the original funk drummer. Any funk beat can be traced back to him. Having someone prolific like that just adds to the whole fun energy.  There will be lots of different musicians playing too. Elise Testone is singing, who’s a tremendous vocalist.  I imagine there will be other special guests as well.”

The vibe that Phish puts out for their shows, especially on New Year’s Eve, will drift down the street into the Gramercy and maintain the positive energy until the sun comes up. As Chase said, “You take away the Giant Country Horns, you take away Phish, and that James Brown vibe alone is a high energy, funky awesome project that people love.  Then you add the Giant Country Horns, and you add Clyde, and you add the fact that it’s after Phish and it turns into a big reunion. There will be a lot of love and a lot of good energy, and it’s just great music.” Expect the unexpected for this incredible New Year’s Eve show.

In addition, a new record is currently in production by JAZZ IS PHSH. Chase indicated that “it’s being mastered by a Grammy winning mastering artist who does all of the Dick’s Picks remastering. From an engineering standpoint alone, Bryce Goggin was the engineer who did the mixing on the record. We recorded it in multiple recording studios: in Atlanta, Baltimore, and New York at Trout Recording. Bryce mixes a lot of the Trey [Anastasio] and Page [McConnell] records. He also mixed Phish’s Round Room album. He was the main engineer on the record that Herbie Hancock did, where he recorded at Trey’s barn. The engineer that worked with Phish and Herbie Hancock made sense to us because we love the tones he came up with. That kind of pedigree made sense.  We told him about the project and he was in love with the idea. We’re really pleased with the whole sonic experience.”

When the project was first announced, a lot of people were excited. There are almost 20 musicians on the record. It will reach not only Phish fans, but jazz fans who aren’t yet familiar with the music of Phish.  Chase went on to say, “maybe musicians who study jazz, and might not venture too far outside, may get turned on to the music through this instrumental jazz funk medium we’ve created.”

Chase compared Phish’s music to the complexity of Frank Zappa’s arrangements. “There’s not always the same embracing by musicians of Phish as there is with Zappa.  There should be just as much an embracing of Phish as Zappa because there are so many complex, amazing compositions that are mind-blowing. As a musician, that’s what turned me on to Phish. Watching them play songs, such as “David Bowie,” live was mind-blowing because of the arrangements. There is a barrier to entry with them, whether it’s with the jam or lyrics. I think it would be good for any musician out there to open their ears to the music of Phish. They have such a vast catalogue.”

With the new JAZZ IS PHSH record on the cusp of being released, Chase spoke about the arrangements and how he hopes the music affects new listeners by introducing them to the world of Phish. “I feel what I’ve done is cherry pick some of the more intricate compositions, such as “Foam.” Taking some of their rock tunes and making them into a jazz funk fusion shows off Phish’s melodic sense.  While we’ve rearranged some of the melodies, they are intact. Even if they’ve changed and been recolored, it’s pretty accurate. I hope this record will open jazz musicians ears who haven’t yet been turned on to Phish. It’s something that should be celebrated.”

The scheduled release for their new album is currently slated for the end of February, but pre-orders are available at JAZZ IS PHSH’s official website, as well as at shows. Here’s a preview of what fans can expect at the upcoming James Brown Dance Party New Year’s Eve show at the Gramercy Theater in New York City.